After the small forward masterclass she put on all game, it was fitting that two-goal star Daria Bannister had the ball in her hands when the final siren sounded on Essendon’s thrilling four-point win over bottom-of-the-ladder Sydney Swans in the AFLW at Ikon Park on Saturday.
It was a nervous finish for the hot favourite Bombers as the gallant Swans pulled to within a kick with 45 seconds left in the match when youngster Sophia Hurley goaled from a set shot straight in front.
But the Bombers would find a way to hold on and keep their slim finals hopes alive.
A massive final quarter from 22-disposal Madison Prespakis in the midfield put the game out of reach of a Swans team that was desperate in its search for a first win in the competition.
Bombers star Jacqui Vogt, returning to the line up a week after walking down the aisle for her wedding, was thrilled to play her part a victory that snapped her side’s four-game losing streak.
“I got married last week, which was amazing, but it’s also good to be back playing footy and to get the win with these amazing bunch of girls is so good,” she said.
“Credit to Sydney, they came out firing, we knew they would be hungry to get the win.
“We fought back and just credit to our girls in the way that we had the ability to fight back.”
SWANS HOT START
It was a harsh result on the Swans, who, at times, had played so well that a major upset looked on the cards.
After withstanding early Bomber dominance, the Swans had the first half mostly on their terms.
The Swans managed to stay in touch on the scoreboard despite Bannister kicking two first term goals for the Bombers.
When Bombers key forward Bonnie Toogood went to the bench with a dislocated finger — she would return later that half — the Swans started to take the ascendancy.
The Swans reeled off three consecutive goals, including the only two goals kicked in the second quarter.
Forward Cynthia Hamilton got a bit lucky with the first goal of the second term as her snap shot bounced over two players and through for a goal to give the Swans their first lead.
The ever-present Hamilton put the finishing touches on another positive Swans move when key forward target Bec Privitelli put her in a position to goal from a set shot straight in front with a pinpoint assist.
Lauren Szigeti was a standout in the first half for the Swans with 10 disposals, while Hurley worked hard both ways and Ally Morphett was busy in the ruck.
With a 10-point half time lead, the Swans were daring to dream of their first win in their inaugural season.
But the Swans were hit by a Bomber blitz early in the second half and were left wishing the halftime siren had never come.
Zoe Hurrell had a dream start to her AFLW career for the Swans.
The first gamer joined that prestigious club of players to kick a goal with their first kick in league football.
Celebrating her 21st birthday, Hurrell made a beautiful lead on the wing and took a strong mark at its highest point.
She then took advantage of a 50-metre penalty — a birthday gift of sorts from her opponents — by running into goal and piercing the big sticks.
It was not the only first for the Swans in the opening quarter.
Hurley kicked her first AFLW goal, confirmed after an agonising wait for the all clear from the goal umpire.
The rookie deserved her first major because of the immense pressure she applied on her Bombers opponents with five first half tackles.
A nice banana goal to Sarah Dargan was the former Collingwood draftee’s first goal as a Swan.
The Bombers kicked the only three goals of the third quarter to get the game back on their terms.
Bannister did it all for the Dons.
So dangerous in attack, she kicked two crucial goals in a tight game to go with 12 disposals and five tackles.
Her work rate was so high that on occasions she was in the back half helping out the defenders.
Having a player of her experience setting the example is invaluable for the Bombers making their way in the competition for the first time.
Toogood also stood up in the forward half.
The co-captain kicked a crucial goal on the three quarter time siren to give the Bombers a handy 10-point lead.
Toogood had threatened all quarter, producing commanding leads and offering a physical presence, but her long range set shot goal was likely the backbreaker for the Swans.
Sprinkle in the tremendous forward pressure applied by small forward Jordan Zanchetta and the impact of Sophie Alexander, Stephanie Cain and Amber Clarke, and it was no surprise that the Bombers had found their way back in front in the game and take a lead they would not relinquish.
Essendon 3.1 3.3 6.6 7.6 (48)
Sydney Swans 3.0 5.1 5.2 7.2 (44)
Bombers: Bannister 2, Phillips 2, Alexander 2, Toogood
Swans: Hamilton 2, Dargan 2, Hurley 2, Hurrell,
Bombers: Bannister, Prespakis, Toogood, Cain, Wales, Alexander.
Swans: Hurley, Szigeti, A Hamilton, Sheppard, Privitelli, Lochland.
3 – Daria Bannister (Essendon)
2 – Madison Prespakis (Essendon)
1 – Lauren Szigeti (Sydney Swans)
Dees continue premiership push
Melbourne enhanced its premiership credentials as it squashed Gold Coast at Metricon Stadium on Saturday night.
The contest resembled little of a clash you would expect between teams that sat second (Demons) and eighth (Suns) on the ladder as the visitors dominated from the outset.
Melbourne won by 49 points.
The Demons remain second on the ladder behind the Brisbane Lions with sevens wins apiece after eight rounds.
Their hefty percentages are further confirmation they are the two standout teams with two rounds left before the finals.
After an early arm wrestle, Melbourne snagged three goals late in the opening term to lead by 19 points at the first change.
It was a procession from then on.
The result hurt the Suns’ finals hopes.
They dropped outside the top eight on percentage and could fall further behind on Sunday should the Western Bulldogs beat St Kilda.
Melbourne’s commanding performance was a fitting result for Daisy Pearce, who was strong in her 50th game.
She booted the game’s first goal and proved one of many dangerous targets inside forward 50.
Inaccurate Cats extend winning streak
Geelong Cats are ready for their “biggest challenge” after locking in an AFLW finals berth for the first time since 2019.
The Cats had to be content with a nine-point win over a never-say-die West Coast Eagles at Ikon Park to make it four consecutive wins for the first time in their five-season history.
But the Cats have bigger fish to fry and will now start hunting a top-four finish.
Exciting Cats forward Chloe Scheer’s focus quickly turned to next Friday night’s marquee battle with Adelaide Crows at the Norwood Oval.
“I’m just so proud of the girls for getting the win [over the Eagles],” she said.
“Wish we kicked a little straighter to take the pressure off us but I think it was a great game and credit to the Eagles for fighting it out until the last quarter.
“We just keep trying to get better. We’ve got Adelaide next week, so that will be our biggest challenge and we’re looking forward to it.”
Scheer is one of the in-form forwards in the competition, but she did not have it all her own way.
The fight-to-the-end mentality of the Eagles shone through on the back of defender Sophie McDonald’s gallant performance on Scheer.
The former hockey player restricted Scheer to just one goal and shone like a beacon in the Eagles defence.
McDonald frustrated Scheer with her tight checking and ability to read the play.
But the Cats are certainly not over-reliant on Scheer.
She has formed an impressive two-pronged attack with veteran Shelley Scott.
Scott was the focal point on this occasion, finishing with six marks for the game.
“I think it’s one of the best forward pairs going around,” Scheer said.
The Cats midfielders had the ball humming in the first half.
They were patient with their ball movement and well connected.
Their onball stars — Amy McDonald, Georgie Prespakis and Nina Morrison — were dominant, but despite all the time the ball spent inside their forward 50, the Cats could not put the score on the board.
The Cats went into halftime dominant in all key statistical categories, but only led by six points at the main break, thanks to a Julia Crockett-Grills first quarter goal.
The Eagles hit the lead after just 22 seconds.
Emma Swanson and Aisling McCarthy combined for the opening centre clearance of the match, which resulted in a deep forward 50 entry and fine Ella Roberts snap goal.
Geelong coach Dan Lowther was slightly concerned going into the game with his team’s inability to dominate the clearances in recent weeks, so that start would have been a concern.
However, it was not too long until the Cats got on top in the middle, resulting in their side enjoying 78% of the ball in their forward half.
It was just a pity their forward conversion was left wanting with 1.6 from seven first half scoring shots.
Thankfully for the Cats, they found their range in the second half to kick a winning score through majors to Scheer, Scott and Darcy Moloney.
Prespakis was given no respect by the opposition.
Far too often, Prespakis was given freedom to roam and she killed the Eagles with her 21 disposals.
Returning from a two-week suspension for a dangerous tackle, Prespakis executed her tackles to the letter of the law, finishing with 12 tackles.
Amy McDonald showed just how much she appreciated her reprieve at the AFLW tribunal during the week.
The Geelong midfielder successfully appealed a one-match ban for a dangerous tackle and was keen to make the most of her chance to pull on the pride guernsey this week.
In a blink-and-you’ll-miss seven seconds in the first term, McDonald racked up three possessions on the one play and delivered with pinpoint accuracy to her forward.
McDonald’s impact on the game was lasting.
She had a team-high 13 disposals at half time and was second-to-none in her hunger and ferocity at the coal face.
Morrison made it look easy en route to her 19 disposals.
Her textbook delivery into attack is one of the main reasons why the ball was camped in the Cats forward 50 for so long.
A valiant effort by the Eagles ended on a sour note with Mikayla Western suffering what appeared to be a dislocated elbow.
Western laid a strong tackle late in the game, only for her elbow to pop out.
Her arm was put in a sling and she must have wondered if her season was over at that gruesome moment.
Aside from McDonald, Dana Hooker was another Eagle who fought hard.
Hooker capped a strong showing with a third-quarter goal after an incredible lookaway handball assist from forward Kate Bartlett.
Hooker finished with 20 disposals and three tackles.
Swanson racked up a game-high 24 disposals.
Geelong Cats 1.4 1.6 4.8 4.10 (34)
West Coast Eagles 1.0 1.0 3.1 4.1 (25)
Cats: Crockett-Grills, Moloney, Scheer, Scott.
Eagles: Roberts, Schmidt, Hooker, Humphries.
Cats: Prespakis, Morrison, A McDonald, M McDonald, Scott, Fuller
Eagles: McDonald, Hooker, Swanson, McCarthy, Lakay, Thomas
3 – Georgie Prespakis (Geelong)
2 – Nina Morrison (Geelong)
1 -Amy McDonald (Geelong)
Power switches off as Roo puts on a show
North Melbourne is still in the hunt for a top-four finish after a Jasmine Garner masterclass spurred the Roos to an impressive 25-point win over Port Adelaide on Saturday afternoon.
The Kangaroos were under the pump early at Alberton Oval but Darren Crocker’s side kept the Power goalless in the second half to stay in touch with the top four with their fifth win of the season.
Garner was a class above with a game-high 28 possessions, six inside 50s and two goals, but she had plenty of willing helpers with Ash Riddell, Emma Kearney and Mia King also prominent, while Alice O’Loughlin also booted two goals.
The Power scored their only win of the season the last time they played on the hallowed turf at Alberton Oval and Lauren Arnell’s side threatened an upset early but couldn’t go with the Roos after the main break.
Ange Foley, Hannah Ewings and Erin Phillips were influential, but couldn’t stop their side falling to the sixth loss of the season.
Port have gone goalless in the opening term on five occasions this season and managed just one major in total across the past two games.
But the switched-on Power banged through three early goals against the Roos, who conceded their highest first-quarter score this campaign.
Foley sparked the impressive start, kicking the fourth goal of her decorated 48-game career with a booming effort from outside 50 that carried the pack and bounced through.
Former Fremantle sharpshooter Gemma Houghton has been sorely missed since undergoing ankle surgery after round two and she booted a goal with her first kick in her return match.
Phillips, who kicked 50 goals in 46 games for Adelaide, is still yet to kick a major for the Power, but the triple premiership star has given off plenty and did so again when she found Justine Mules, who snapped superbly.
It wasn’t all one-way traffic, with Tahlia Randall shedding her recent goalkicking yips to convert a set shot, but Port was up by five points at the first break.
Garner had five more disposals than the next-best on the ground at halftime and played a pivotal role as the Kangaroos wrested the momentum.
The visitors took over the use of a handy breeze in the second term and Garner used it to guide through the first goal of the quarter.
The star Roo also started the chain that led to Emma King’s goal after a nimble sidestep from the big ruck.
North led by three points at the main break and Garner’s work rate was key as the Power players wilted under the visitors’ pressure.
The margin was 11 points heading into the final term and Garner put the cherry on top of a fine performance with just over two minutes left when she cruised effortlessly toward goal and slotted her second.
LILY LIGHTS UP
Port youngster Lily Johnson, who was pick No. 80 at the June draft, provided a feel-good moment in her first game six seconds before halftime.
With her side trailing by nine points, the 18-year-old marked on a tricky angle 40m out from goal.
Unfazed by the moment, the Tasmanian ran around to improve her angle and slotted an impressive goal with her first kick at AFLW level and was duly mobbed by every teammate on the ground.
POWER 3.1 4.2 4.3 4.5 (29)
KANGAROOS 2.2 4.5 5.8 7.12 (54)
PHELAN’S BEST POWER: Foley, Ewings, Phillips, Surman, Yorston, O’Dea. KANGAROOS: Garner, Kearney, Riddell, M King, Brown, O’Loughlin.
POWER: Houghton, Mules, Johnson, Foley.
KANGAROOS: Garner 2, O’Loughlin 2, King, Abbatangelo, Randall.
POWER: Nil. KANGAROOS: Nil.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
JASON PHELAN’S VOTES
3 Garner (NM)
2 Foley (PA)
1 Kearney (NM)
Captain’s injury compounds Crows’ woe as Tigers stitch up finals
A relentless Brisbane reinforced why they are red-hot favourites for the 2022 AFLW crown with a 22-point rout of Adelaide in the top-of-the-table clash at Metricon Stadium on Friday night.
Four unanswered goals in the second term set-up the win and three more majors in the final quarter from the Lions finished off the Crows as Brisbane moved to a 7-1 record and one win clear of the rest of the competition.
Brisbane’s slick ball movement, hard running and suffocating defensive pressure overwhelmed the Crows who had injury added to insult when captain Chelsea Randall left the field in the last term with an ankle injury after landing awkwardly in a marking contest.
Both teams were 6-1 heading into the clash between the two most successful sides in AFLW history but Brisbane snapped Adelaide’s six-game winning streak in emphatic fashion with a performance that sent an ominous warning across the bow of its rivals.
Ebony Marinoff had 33 touches for the Crows but got too little support from too many as Sophie Conway was best-on-ground with 15 telling disposals and two goals for Brisbane.
Brisbane’s Sophie Conway could find herself in hot water after a second quarter incident involving Adelaide’s Chelsea Randall. Randall tackled Conway as she kicked the ball and the Lions ball magnet did not like the heavy treatment. She remonstrated with Randall and appeared to push down on her face. Randall left the field soon after with blood coming from her mouth and was treated for a split lip by Crows medical staff. The Adelaide skipper returned to the action before halftime and played out the game until an ankle injury ended her night late but the high contact away from the ball will be looked at by the MRO.
DOWN TO THE WIRE
The AFLW ladder was more congested than traffic on the M1 between Brisbane and the Gold Coast on a Friday afternoon before the first bounce at Metricon Stadium with five teams – Brisbane, Adelaide, Melbourne, Collingwood and Richmond all on 24 premiership points. Home ground advantage will be vital in the finals so the Crows need to put Geelong and St Kilda to the sword in the next fortnight to stay in the hunt for a top four finish with percentage also set to be crucial.
WHERE THE ACTION REALLY WAS
A Brisbane radio ad on Friday afternoon was promoting an “AFLW blockbuster” – between Carlton and Richmond. Spare us – the game does exist outside of Victoria. The true blockbuster was between the two most successful sides in AFLW history with the Crows and Lions winning four of the five flags that have been decided. The Crows have been the undisputed benchmark with three premierships from four grand final appearances while the Lions have the one flag from three trips to the big dance.
Brisbane Lions: 1.1 5.2 5.5 8.5 (53)
Adelaide Crows: 1.4 1.4 2.6 4.7 (31)
Lions: Conway 2, Wardlaw 2, Hodder, Bodey, Davidson, Anderson
Crows: Charlton, Randall, Ponter, Newman
Lions: Conway, Anderson, C. Svarc, O’Dwyer, Dawes, Koenen
Crows: Marinoff, Randall, Hatchard, Biddell
3 — Sophie Conway (Lions)
2 — Ebony Marinoff (Crows)
1 — Ally Anderson (Lions)
Tigers stitch up finals berth
Richmond surged to a sixth win on the trot and dealt Carlton’s finals chances a major blow as a career-best performance from Monique Conti helped the Tigers to a come-from-behind 10-point win to kick off Pride Round.
The Blues burst out of the blocks, but relentless Richmond reeled them in to score its first AFLW win over Carlton at Princes Park on Friday night.
Conti starred with a career-high 30 possessions, while Courtney Wakefield booted four goals, also a career-best for her.
Mimi Hill started in attack for Carlton where she kicked a goal, then moved onto the ball where she racked up a team-high 20 touches.
It was a match that had significant finals ramifications for both sides.
The sixth-placed Tigers appeared destined to play finals for the first time since they entered the competition before the match, but the victory locks in a historic finals berth and puts them in with a chance at a top-four finish.
The Blues went into round 8 sitting in 10th spot, one win and about 19 percentage points out of eighth place, and desperately needed a win to boost their bid to return to the finals after two seasons out.
The result is clearly a blow, but the Blues are still in with a fighting chance given they face the two teams ahead of them on the ladder to round out the home-and-away season.
Daniel Harford’s side plays the Suns at Metricon on Friday night, then Bulldogs at Princes Park in what could be a ‘win-and-you’re-in’ round 10 clash.
Carlton opened with a ferocity at the contest that had the Tigers on the back foot from the outset.
The fired-up Blues went inside attacking 50 11 times before Richmond managed its first forward foray of the contest, with the inside-50 count a lopsided 13-3 at the first break.
The shell-shocked Tigers did well to limit the damage early, but a courageous smother by Keeley Skepper helped break the deadlock, with Hill gathering the spilt ball and kicking the first major.
Peterson celebrated her 50th-game milestone with a fine snapped goal in traffic and Taylor Ortlepp booted her first AFLW goal as Carlton raced to a 26-point lead over the scoreless visitors.
Carlton hadn’t kicked more than two goals in a first quarter this season, but fired through four in a withering opening salvo.
Sarah Hosking’s late major made it a 19-point game at the first break and it was Conti who led the Richmond counter-attack as the Tigers flipped the script in the second term.
Conti led all players with 15 possessions at halftime, seven of those contested, with her work in close helping Richmond wrest the momentum.
Courtney Wakefield’s eighth goal of the season was the only major of the second term and helped slice the margin to 11 points at halftime.
Conti was important again when she found Wakefield with her 20th possession, the Tigers sharpshooter giving her side the lead for the first time midway through the third quarter with her third goal of the night.
Skepper put the Blues up by three points at the last change with her late goal setting up a tense finale.
Wakefield gave her side back the lead with her fourth, but Carlton continued to press.
It was Tigers skipper Katie Brennan who settled the engrossing contest, banging through her only goal of the night with 44 seconds left after she played on from a free kick further up the field.
BLUES 4.2 4.3 5.3 5.4 (34)
TIGERS 1.1 2.4 4.6 6.8 (44)
PHELAN’S BEST BLUES: Hill, McKay, Moody, McEvoy, Peterson, Laloifi. TIGERS: Conti, Wakefield, S Hosking, Egan, McKenzie, Seymour.
GOALS BLUES: Hill, Ortlepp, Pound, Skepper, Peterson. TIGERS: Wakefield 4, S Hosking, Brennan.
INJURIES BLUES: Nil. TIGERS: Nil.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
JASON PHELAN’S VOTES
3 Conti (Rich)
2 Wakefield (Rich)
1 Hill (Carl)
DAISY WON’T BE DEFINED BY FLAG DREAM
Daisy Pearce is adamant she won’t be defined by whether she wins an AFL Women’s premiership as she prepares to celebrate a milestone she admits has even surprised herself.
The Melbourne captain will notch 50 AFL Women’s games on Saturday night after six-and-a-half years at the top level that has also included pregnancy and the birth of twins Roy and Sylvie, three All-Australian nods, three Melbourne best and fairest awards, a grand final berth and all of her 50 games being as skipper.
The Demons currently sit third on the ladder and are firmly in the flag mix.
And while she’d “love” an AFLW premiership, she maintains she will still walk away fulfilled when the day comes – but that won’t be just yet.
“I’d love one. So if you have anything to do with who gets them …” she laughed on Thursday.
“It didn’t come into my thinking (about playing on this year). It’s more this ongoing hunger and desire to be involved.
“It’s less about ticking that box and having a premiership as it is about just love for the game. If I extrapolate that out to the scenario where I do hang up the boots and I haven’t got one, I think I’ll walk away still really fulfilled and felling like the game has given me so much.”
Pearce, 34, played “about 150” games for Darebin in the VWFL/VFLW, where she won 10 premierships – seven of those as captain.
She said she was “normally one to kind of brush it off” when it came to personal milestones, but the looming honour had felt a little different.
“Fifty doesn’t sound like many, particularly when we’ve just had Joel Selwood hit 40 finals and in AFL speak we’re talking 350s and 400s,” Pearce said.
“But for AFLW … I couldn’t play a single game until I was nearly 29 – it just wasn’t possible. I was nearly 30 when the competition started, and we were going six or seven games at a time (per season) to begin with, so they were hard to come by, AFLW games.
“To throw in twins and a pregnancy and all of that in between, it might not sound like many on paper, but it feels like a lot.”
EXPERT TIPS FOR ROUND 8
Ebony Marinoff 50
Last Week 7
Liz Walsh 50
North Melbourne 15
Western Bulldogs 12
GWS Giants 9
Last Week 8
Matt Turner 49
Brisbane Lions 4
North Melbourne 14
Western Bulldogs 11
GWS Giants 7
Last Week 9
Glenn McFarlane 48
Brisbane Lions 12
North Melbourne 23
Western Bulldogs 7
GWS Giants 17
Last Week 8
Lauren Wood 48
Brisbane Lions 9
North Melbourne 15
Western Bulldogs 14
GWS Giants 10
Last Week 8
Chris Cavanagh 47
Brisbane Lions 6
North Melbourne 24
Western Bulldogs 12
GWS Giants 1
Last Week 7
Kate McCarthy 47
Last Week 8
Mark Robinson 47
Brisbane Lions 6
North Melbourne 12
Western Bulldogs 14
GWS Giants 5
Last Week 7
Rebecca Williams 47
Brisbane Lions 6
North Melbourne 10
Western Bulldogs 10
Last Week 8
Ellie Blackburn 45
Last Week 5
Sarah Jones 44
Brisbane Lions 2
North Melbourne 8
Western Bulldogs 13
GWS Giants 8
Last Week 7
Chloe Molloy 43
Last Week 8
Aliesha Newman 40
Last Week 5
Gemma Houghton 39
Last Week 6
Kiss of Death 14
Port Adelaide 13
West Coast 13
Gold Coast 13
St Kilda 13
Last Week 1
Originally published as AFLW news: Match reports, news and tips for Round 8